There was a brief moment in Spring 2020, just a few days into “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” when we had a chance to change our trajectory. A distinct inflection point where if we had done just one thing differently, and caught the crazy COVID coaster before it got locked in its tracks, things could have turned out very differently over these last three plus years.
In the third week of March a secret emergency meeting was scheduled to take place between President Donald Trump, the COVID Task Force, and eight of the most eminently qualified public health experts in the world. This elite group of scientists was slated to present the highest-level decision-makers in our government with an alternative POV to lock down; a much-needed second opinion on national turtling.
We didn’t know it at the time, but this would have been the most important meeting of the COVID-19 era. But it never occurred.
This has been a nagging question ever since July 27, 2020 when BuzzFeed News broke the news in an article by Stephanie M. Lee: “An Elite Group Of Scientists Tried To Warn Trump Against Lockdowns In March.” In her article Ms. Lee framed this aborted meeting as a dodged bullet, and the scientists as unhelpful meddlers, but for many of us the fact that there even was an attempted meeting like this was extremely heartening.
Because for months we had been led to believe that this novel, authoritarian response was unanimous, that “the science was settled” and yet here we find out that some of the most famous scientists in the world didn’t quite agree with “the science.” Not only that, but they had major issues with the process, they questioned the data, and they were extremely concerned about the downstream, long-term effects to our society from locking down. But Lee’s article didn’t even attempt to answer the one big glaring, nagging question left in her article: “Why?”
If you remember back to Late Winter/Early Spring 2020 the entire connected world went from “Hey, no big deal,” to “Hey, what’s going on in Italy?” to “Holy shit, we’re all gonna die!” in a matter of just a few weeks. COVID mania quickly captured us all, and by early March we were suddenly armchair experts on cytokine storms and case counts, and even your aunt Glenda posted that “Flatten the Curve” Washington Post article on Facebook and suddenly we found ourselves on March 15, 2020 watching in slack-jawed horror as Trump, Fauci, and Birx stood up there, telling us their bright idea was to shut down the entire country. For just two weeks they said. To protect our hospitals from “the spike” they said. If we didn’t, they said, two million people would surely die.